Despite a few niggles over the episodic format, Day of the Flymo is a thoughtful play that won’t disappoint fans of Wet House.
Paddy Campbell’s had a whirlwind 18 months at Live. His début, Wet House was so much of a smash hit it won the Journal’s award for Best Play and got a revival at Live the following year. So now he’s following it up with a second play, Day of the Flymo, again at Live Theatre. What could possibly go wrong? … Actually, quite a lot. When your first play is that much of a runaway success, people’s expectations go into overdrive. And there’s no guarantee that the next play will live up to the blockbuster you’ve just done. Has anyone heard of The Sparrow? Thought not. That was a flop of Alan Ayckbourn’s that immediately followed Relatively Speaking.
Well, if Paddy was worried this might happen, he needn’t have done. It’s another decent, thoughtful play, and anyone who liked Wet House won’t be disappointed with this. It’s fair to say that Campbell played it safe this time and stuck to his strength, which is writing about what he knows, but its a strength that serves well. Last time it was based on his work in a hostel for alcoholics. This time, it’s based on his experiences of social care. But there is one big difference between in two plays. In Wet House, a bad situation was made worse by a sadistic carer who brutalised the residents, manipulated the other staff, and bullied everyone. In Day of the Flymo, social worker Ben (Akemnji Ndifornyen) is competent, capable, good-natured, and works with equally dedicated people – and yet, even with the best will in the world, things go wrong very easily.
The story centres on Liam (Kalem Patterson), a 13-year-old with, it appears, the difficult combination of Asperger’s and ADHD. He’s a tearaway who got himself thrown out of school, and was probably mentally damaged by his violent father. A strong theme of the play the effect Liam has on his family. Mother Karen (Jill Dellow), having taken the worst of her husband’s violent behaviour, never fully recovered and doesn’t know how to handle her son. Which mean it falls to Liam’s half-sister Becca (Tezney Mulroy) to look after the whole family in the middle of her GCSEs. Desperate for respect, Liam makes friends where he can: first with mischievous old ladies who get him to mow the lawn (amongst other tasks); then Clara (Sophie Pitches), who bunks off her posh school and his family issues of her own; and then, most alarmingly, a gang up to no good who can set him up for anything. Continue reading